For 40 years paddlers have converged on Madison, Wis., for what is now the largest paddle-sports expo in the country. Welcome to Canoecopia.
Canoecopia brings about 20,000 people together over the course of three days for an orgy of canoe, kayak, and SUP-related festivities. The event is a great place to get your hands on the latest paddling gear, attend presentations and clinics, and get ready for the upcoming paddling season.
I combed through hundreds of products. These 13 new pieces of gear are just hitting the market, right in time for spring paddling on lakes, rivers, and big water beyond.
Wenonah T-Formex Canoes (Royalex Replacement)
MSRP: Depends On Model – Available Spring 2017
For several years, moving water canoeists have been anxiously awaiting a Royalex replacement and this year Wenonah will oblige.
The brand releases a variety of models in T-Formex, a new material similar to Royalex that is reported to be slightly stiffer and extremely durable. T-Formex has a look and feel very similar to Royalex and Wenonah is using it in two colors: green and red.
Aqua Bound Malta Fiberglass 2-Piece SUP paddle
MSRP: $260 – Available: Spring 2017
The Malta is a lightweight SUP paddle that comes in three vibrant colors. Crafted of compression-molded fiberglass, the Malta’s blade is a sleek 87-square inches of translucent beauty.
The color options — Sunwave, Berry, and Limeade — will complement virtually every board. The Malta has a 100-percent carbon shaft with a 10° bend, and a 100-percent carbon-contoured grip for truly comfortable paddling.
Sigurd Canoe Co. Handmade Paddles
MSRP: $145 to $175 – Available: Now
One of the highlights of Canoecopia is meeting people that are passionate about paddling and making gear for paddlers. Jamie Cooper is a perfect example: He puts a lot of love into every paddle that he makes.
He crafts each almost entirely with hand tools. And each is a handmade work of art. Looking for a canoe paddle with some character that you won’t find in a big box store? Consider a Sigurd Canoe Co paddle.
Northstar Phoenix IXP (Made With Innegra)
MSRP: $2,395 – Available: Now
Wham! A sledgehammer slammed into the bottom of a canoe and grabbed my attention. I asked Ted Bell, the owner of Northstar Canoes, what the heck was going on.
He explained that people were pounding a model canoe made out of Innegra, a relatively new composite material he uses to make super-tough canoes for whitewater.
The Phoenix is the first model manufactured by North Star with a solid Innegra layup. Multiple layers of the composite with no foam core or ribs produce a canoe capable of extended river and whitewater expeditions, just like Royalex. The 14-foot, 6-inch Phoenix solo canoe weighs 41 pounds.
MSRP: $180 – Available: Now
If your ideal day on the water consists more of floating, eating, and drinking than paddling, the Creek Kooler may be right up your alley.
This floating cooler contains 1.5 inches of insulation and has a 30-quart capacity. It holds 30 12-oz. cans and 20 lbs. of ice. There are four drink holders located on deck so you and your crew have plenty of places to store cold drinks as floating downstream.
It looks a heck of a lot like the Kayak Cooler, which debuted at the 2017 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.
Frost River Back Bay Lumbar Pack
MSRP: $195 – Available: Spring 2017
Frost River developed the Back Bay Lumbar Pack as a lightweight, technical pack built from heritage materials for versatility on the trail.
It is one of the most technical pieces of gear by Frost River, with a nice mix of traditional canvas and performance-oriented load-transfer straps that cinch the pack to the belt for a stable carry. The transfer straps form a Y to stabilize the load across two rows of webbed daisy chain that cross the front of the pack.
A daisy chain offers multiple attachment points if you need to carry a slightly larger load. It would be great for carrying a light rain jacket, water bottle, and snacks on day-trip hiking in the mountains, or paddling in the Boundary Waters.
MSRP: $135 Available: Now
Barrels are a handy way to haul food and other items on canoeing and rafting trips. The North Water Quickhaul is designed to help portage a 30L or 60L canoe barrel comfortably and securely.
Its barrel-cradling belt system spreads the load across the lower back and holds the barrel or other object away from the spine. It is comfortable and easy to adjust.
Plus, there is no fabric under the barrel, which can be a point of wear on some barrel-hauling harnesses. And if you add extension straps (sold separately), the Quickhaul can be used to haul a Creek Boat into remote whitewater haunts.
Sea to Summit Air Seat Insulated
MSRP: $34.95 Available: Spring, 2017
Sometimes you just need a little padding under your bum. In the canoe or on a log around camp, this inflatable seat adds warmth and cushion when you want it. It packs into a tiny ball when you don’t. A warm, dry, soft spot to sit can be a real lifesaver. The Sea to Summit Air Seat may be just the ticket.
MTI Self-Inflating PFD
MSRP: $159.95 Available: March, 2017
A life jacket is a critical piece of safety equipment. But it won’t do you any good if you don’t wear it. MTI Adventurewear’s designed the new Neptune Automatic Inflatable PFD for the boater who wants the compact feel of an inflatable PFD with the extra peace of mind that an auto-inflate.
Twenty-nine pounds of floatation activated when immersed in water, or triggered by the Jerk tag. This is MTI’s first auto-inflate PFD and one of the first auto-inflating PFDs designed for the paddling market. The brand designed it specifically with kayak fishing in mind. However, I’m tempted to bring one on a mid-summer canoe trip in the Boundary Waters. They’re available in camo and orange.
Thule Glide And Set Kayak Carrier
MSRP: $219 – Available Now
Getting your kayak to the water’s edge and home again can be the hardest part of a day on the water. The Thule Glide and Set combines two low-friction, felt-lined saddles with two form-fitting saddles that grip the surface of the kayak’s hull. This helps hold the kayak in place while transporting.
With this system, one person can slide the kayak up onto saddles from behind the vehicle.
MSRP: $1,100 – Available Now
Pedal drives are becoming increasingly popular with kayak fishermen, photographers, and other folks that want to free up their hands on the water.
The Helix Pedal Drive is easy to lift out of the water, which has many advantages. Think paddling over a shallow sand bar, landing on a rocky beach, or navigating a shallow river with rocks and logs. To maneuver around these obstacles, quickly pull up the Helix Pedal Drive and use the paddle.
The Helix is compatible with the Wilderness Systems Radar 115 and Radar 135 sit-on-top kayaks.
MSRP: $799 – Available Now
Perception calls the Hi Life 11.0 the one-stop shop for fun on the water. It is a unique craft that combes the smooth tracking of a kayak with the stability of a SUP.
Sit down and paddle it like a kayak or stand up and paddle it like a SUP. It is kid-friendly and has a sliding track for mounting fishing pole holders and other accessories.
Bic Tough-Tec SUP
MSRP: $649-$749 – Available: Now
Bic’s new Tough-Tec construction is an improved version of its Dura-Tec build. This new technology is extremely tough, resulting in a higher-performing board that has the durability of a kayak at an affordable price.
Tough-Tec boards come in five sizes and could be a good option for someone looking for a durable, moderately priced SUP with decent performance.